Chicago Tech Executive Charged with Illegally Exporting Computer Equipment to Pakistan

A Chicago-area resident who owns a Pakistani technology company has been indicted for allegedly illegally exporting computer equipment from the United States to a nuclear research agency of the Pakistani government.

Obaidullah Syed owned Pakistan-based Business System International Pvt. LTD., and Chicago-based BSI USA.  The companies provided high-performance computing platforms, servers, and software application solutions.  From 2006 to 2015, Syed and Business System International conspired with company employees in Pakistan to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by exporting computer equipment from the United States to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission without obtaining the required authorization from the U.S. Department of Commerce, according to an indictment returned in the U.S. District Court in Chicago.  The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, according to the indictment, was a Pakistani government agency responsible for “the design, fabrication, and testing of high explosives and nuclear weapons parts, uranium mining and enrichment, and the development of solid-fueled ballistic missiles.” 

The indictment charges Syed, 65, of Northbrook, and Business System International with one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and foreign trade regulations, and one count of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.  Syed was arrested Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, and remains in federal custody.  A detention hearing is scheduled for today at 1:00 p.m. CDT before U.S. Magistrate Judge M. David Weisman in Chicago.

The indictment was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, John R. Lausch, Jr., U.S.  Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; James M. Gibbons, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; Dan Clutch, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security-Office of Export Enforcement, Chicago Field Office; and Cynthia Bruce, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Southeast Field Office.  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter M. Flanagan.

According to the indictment, Syed, Business System International and the other conspirators falsely represented to U.S.-based computer manufacturers that the illegal shipments were intended for Pakistan-based universities, Syed’s business, or Syed himself, when, in fact, the conspirators knew that the true end user and ultimate consignee of each shipment was either the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission or a research institute that trained the agency’s engineers and scientists, the indictment states.  In so doing, according to the indictment, Syed and his company caused the U.S.-based computer manufacturers to submit to the U.S. government shipping documents, including Shippers Export Declarations, that listed false end-users for the U.S.-origin goods, thereby undermining the U.S. government’s ability to stop the illegal shipments.

The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  The conspiracy count is punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, while violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.  If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

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